The Impacts of Lowering the Cost of Secondary Education: Evidence from a Fee Reduction in Kenya

Economics of Education Review, vol 83, 2021. (Awarded Economics of Education Review Best Paper of 2021) 

Abstract: I investigate the Kenyan government’s 2008 public secondary school fee reduction. This policy rapidly increased the proportion of students continuing from primary to secondary school, particularly from areas with low initial primary to secondary transition rates. Using this regional variation in exposure to the program together with birth-cohort variation, I show that the program increased female educational achievement, delayed childbirth and related demographic behaviors, and shifted employment away from agriculture towards skilled work.

The effects of booster classes in protracted crisis settings: Evidence from Kenyan refugee camps (with Thomas de Hoop, Chinmaya Holla, Darius Isaboke, Timothy Kinoti, Hannah Ring, and Victoria Rothbard)

Journal of Development Effectiveness, 15(3), 2023.

Students in protracted crisis settings often face a range of challenges which combine to yield low education outcomes. This paper presents the results from a randomized controlled trial of weekend and holiday booster classes for 7th and 8th grade girls in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, that aimed to improve girls’ education outcomes and increase transition rates from primary to secondary school. While qualitative results suggested numerous advantages of the booster classes, including more freedom to ask questions, smaller class sizes, and kinder teachers, the program did not yield statistically significant effects on learning outcomes, school attendance or noncognitive skills. Mixed-methods research suggests that the limited impacts may stem from implementation challenges including irregular booster class attendance and a lack of appropriate teaching materials. More broadly, the results show the importance of accounting for implementation challenges in the reporting of impact evaluation results.

Can School Upgrades Up Grades? 

Abstract: Countries worldwide have been successful at getting children into school but low student learning and low school quality remain concerns. This paper analyzes whether a Kenyan government program that upgraded selected secondary schools to a higher-quality national tier improved student educational outcomes, as measured by student secondary school completion examination results. The program impact is identi ed by comparing student outcomes at upgraded schools to student outcomes at schools that met the government's upgrade eligibility criteria, but were not selected for the upgrade program. I examine only cohorts already enrolled in the schools prior to the upgrade announcements to avoid potential composition changes resulting from the program. Using this difference-in-differences approach, I  find that the program did not significantly improve outcomes for students enrolled in the the newly-upgraded schools while the new admissions mechanism admitted more geographically diverse but lower-achieving students.

Status: Accepted, Journal of African Economies

Work in Progress

A Firm of Ones Own: Experimental Evidence on Credit Constraints and Occupational Choice - Last updated May 2024

(with Maddalena Honorati, Pamela Jakiela, and Owen Ozier)

Abstract: We evaluate two labor market interventions targeting young women in Nairobi, Kenya. The first was a multifaceted program involving vocational training, in-kind transfers of physical capital, and ongoing mentoring. The second was an unrestricted cash grant. Both interventions shift women into self-employment, impacts which persist after six years. Both programs also increase income in the short-term, but those effects disappear over time. Though the two treatments have similar impacts on labor market outcomes, women in the multifaceted program report significantly higher wellbeing six years after treatment relative to both women in the control group and those who received the grants 

Status: Revise and resubmit, Review of Economics and Statistics

Returns to Soft-Skills Training for Recent Graduates in Rwanda - Last updated May 2023

(with Diego Ubfal)

Young adults seeking to enter the labor market often confront a skills mismatch with firms reporting difficulty finding new entrants with appropriate levels of soft skills. This paper reports findings from a randomized controlled trial in Rwanda in which recent graduates from tertiary education were randomly assigned to a 2-week intensive soft skills training program developed and delivered by staff of the main national University. Our results indicate that the program facilitated an accelerated entry into the labor market in a period characterized by COVID-19 related disruptions. These effects dissipated over the following year as more jobs become available in the economy and the control group's employment caught up with that of the treatment group. We find evidence of significant job networks expansion for participants of the training, which could have led to faster labor market entry for the treated youth.

Status: Revise and resubmit, Labour Economics. 

Impacts of Oxen on Agricultural Production and Intra-Household Labor Supply - Last updated June 2023

(with Aletheia Donald and Lea Rouanet)

Mechanization has the potential to boost agricultural production and reduce poverty in rural economies, but its impacts remain poorly understood. We randomize the subsidized provision of a pair of traction oxen among 2,546 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire through a matching grant. We find positive impacts on households’ agricultural production during the agricultural season overlapping with oxen delivery, and additional increases in total land holdings and use of complementary inputs in the subsequent season. The intervention affected household members in different ways, with wives and daughters substantially reducing their work on the farm. This effect was concentrated in districts with more stringent gender norms around handling oxen, where women increased their off-farm work as a result of the mechanization. The intervention also improved children’s health and reduced school dropout for boys. Our results provide novel evidence on the human development effects of mechanization, while highlighting how social prescriptions mediate the impacts of technology within the household. 

Status: Under review

Supporting Women’s Livelihoods at Scale: Short-Run Impacts from a Nationwide Multi-Faceted Program - Last updated August 2023, longer-term follow-up coming soon.

(with Ioana Botea, Markus Goldstein, Corinne Low, and Gareth Roberts)

Land Formalization and Willingness to Invest in Rural Mozambique - Draft coming soon (June 2023)

(with Claire Boxho and Joao Montalvao)

Status: Baseline, intervention, and follow-up completed

Personal Initiative Training and Mentoring for Cross-Border Traders in Burkina Faso

(with Diego Ubfal, Benjamin Scharweit)

Status: Baseline and intervention completed